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Vol. LXI, No. 9
May 1, 2009

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Workshops Outline Future of Women’s Health Research

  Providence, Sept. 21-23; Northwestern University, Chicago, Oct. 14-15.  
  Providence, Sept. 21-23; Northwestern University, Chicago, Oct. 14-15.  

The Office of Research on Women’s Health and Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine recently co-hosted the first in a series of four regional scientific workshops designed to help define the NIH women’s health research agenda for the next decade. The workshop was held on the campus of Washington University and brought together more than 300 scientists, clinicians, public policymakers, advocates and members of the public to address changing public health and scientific needs.

“With so many advocacy priorities and special agenda issues, it is a challenge to design priorities to meet all constituency concerns,” said ORWH director Dr. Vivian Pinn. “I am confident, however, that the new agenda can address continuing gaps and emerging science about women’s health and sex and gender factors, the application of new technologies and the advancement and sustainment of the careers of women in science and engineering.”

Keynote speakers included Dr. Nancy Nielsen, president of the American Medical Association, who spoke by video telecast from the White House Forum on Health Care Reform. “It is essential for women’s health research to be included in a national health research strategy,” she said.

Dr. Phoebe Leboy, president of the Association for Women in Science, spoke on the difficulty of retaining women in academic medicine. “Although women make up more than 40 percent of M.D.s and biomedical Ph.D.s, they are still underrepresented among medical school faculty,” she said.

Leboy noted several causes for women’s decisions to leave academic medicine, such as a system that rewards traits such as assertiveness that are socially less acceptable for women; environments where women are still demeaned and undervalued; and a highly competitive culture that assumes a workday of more than 12 hours, including weekends.

“Supportive help for women at academic centers would include activities such as mentoring and networking and enacting family-friendly policies such as family leave, the extension of the probationary period and the construction of childcare facilities,” she said.

NIDDK director Dr. Griffin Rodgers presented at a panel on enhancing interdisciplinary science in women’s health research. He noted several key developments such as the activities of ORWH, the inclusion of women in clinical trials and the Women’s Health Initiative.

“Powerful interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches are ones that harness technology and expertise,” said Rodgers. “We also need to emphasize translational research that helps move discoveries from bench to bedside.”

The conference also featured a session to receive testimony from the public on women’s health issues and issues related to the advancement of women in biomedical careers. Work groups were also conducted, whose members drafted recommendations on women’s health in conjunction with such medical issues as chronic pain syndrome, obesity and bladder and pelvic floor disorders.

The remaining three scientific workshops will be held at the following locations: University of California, San Francisco, May 27-29; Brown University and Women and Infants Hospital, Providence, Sept. 21-23; Northwestern University, Chicago, Oct. 14-15.

Once the workshops are complete, the ideas, recommendations and testimony will be integrated with other NIH input and will inform the agenda of women’s health research for the next decade. NIHRecord Icon

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